System Efficiency

A quality education system is conceptualized in the UNESCO General Education Quality Analysis/Diagnosis Framework (GEQAF) as one delivering quality education equitably and efficiently. Therefore, the way resources are allocated, managed and used at different levels of the education system is an important dimension and determinant of a quality education system. Improvements in resource efficiency can free significant resources which could be utilized to address education quality. There is evidence that in many cases more resources have not meant better results in terms of education quality and learning outcomes (See: Resources and student achievement).  The education sector needs to save resources internally by reducing various types of inefficiencies before justifying increased resources to the sector.

All those who invest in education (parents, learners and society at large) legitimately ask whether they get the highest possible value from their investment. This is no different than an entrepreneur asking whether s/he makes the highest return on invested capital. Governments face multiple and competing needs which have to be catered for and therefore the education sector must demonstrate efficient use of public resources to be able to justify increased or maintained level of financing. The long-term sustainability of education finance strongly hinges on continuous improvement in efficiency. Hence improved system efficiency remains a cardinal issue in any reform aimed at improving education quality and learning effectiveness. Ultimately, the education system’s overall efficiency/inefficiency is judged by its internal and external efficiency. Internal efficiency measures the output and outcome of the education system while external efficiency measures the extent to which the competencies acquired in school translate into private and social benefits.

This Analytical Tool is part of the UNESCO General Education Quality Diagnosis/Analysis and Framework (GEQAF). As this Analytical Tool deals with system efficiency it relates to all the other tools in the Quality Framework as efficiency and effectiveness issues are critical in all dimensions of efforts to improve the quality of education. The aim of this Analytical Tool is to support UNESCO Member States undertake a diagnosis and analysis of the efficiency/inefficiency of their education system. The paramount question the toolkit helps to address is: To what extent is resource inefficiency in our education system a serious impediment to improve education quality and equity.

The diagnosis and analysis is facilitated by posing key questions regarding policies and strategies in place to enhance system efficiency and the monitoring and evaluation mechanisms in place to support that.


Policies and strategies for resource efficiency

1. How do our education policies and strategies promote and assure efficient use of resources? What are our indicators of resource efficiency? To what extent do we set resource efficiency targets and what mechanisms are there to monitor their achievement?

2. To what extent do we conduct cost-effectiveness of various measures before committing resources? How have we benchmarked the resource needs of various sub-sectors and programs?

3. To what extent is our resource allocation results-oriented than input-focused? What is the evidence of that? What adjustments have we made in our resource allocation to take account of the differential impact of various inputs (teachers, teaching material, management, monitoring, supervision, etc.) on learning outcomes? What is the evidence such consideration is taking place?

4. What incentives are there for managers at different levels to be efficient in their use of resources at their disposal? How is resource allocations linked to performance?

5. In our context, what are the key factors that drive resource efficiency/inefficiency? How do we know? If we know, what have we done to address them? Have the measures ben effective?

Monitoring and evaluation of system efficiency

1. To what extent have we been able to provide the human, organizational and technical capacity to monitor and analyze resource efficiency in our education system?

2. Does the EMIS provide quality and up to date information on internal efficiency (repetition, drop-out, completion and retention rates)? What analysis of the data have we done to understand the underlying causes of observed internal inefficiency? What measures have we undertaken to improve the situation? Do we have evidence that the measures have been effective?

3. What is the level of external efficiency of our education system? What recent studies are available on private and social rate of returns to education? Do we know the extent of graduate unemployment? what does the evidence on rates of return to education suggest about external efficiency of education in our country?

Priorities for action

1. What are the key constraints which we need to prioritize in order to achieve significant gains in efficiency for improving education quality?

2. What are the knowledge gaps which need to be filled for an evidence-based policy to improve system efficiency?

3. What are the required actions to deal with the priority constraints and the identified knowledge gaps?

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